2015 PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

Winner

Joshua HorwitzWar of the Whales: A True Story (Simon & Schuster)

The PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award celebrates writing that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of physical and biological sciences. The winner receives a cash award of $10,000 and will be honored at the PEN Literary Awards. The PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award was founded by scientist and author Dr. Edward O. Wilson, activist and actor Harrison Ford, and the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. The inaugural award was conferred in 2011.

From the Judges' Citation

Joshua Horwitz's War of the Whales begins with the mysterious and disturbing marine mammal stranding that took place in the Bahamas in 2000--the "largest multispecies stranding ever recorded"--with more than a dozen beaked whales washing ashore, some dead, many bleeding from their ears. When marine biologist Ken Balcomb investigates the cause, suspecting a new, high-intensity ocean-wide sonar being tested by the Navy to hide its submarines, he is undermined and stymied at every turn by formidable and secretive government agents. Horwitz's dogged reporting--which matches Balcomb’s own intensity as he pursues the truth and puts his life on the line to hold the Navy accountable--combined with crisp, cinematic writing, produces a powerful narrative about the collision of technology in the name of national security and the seemingly quixotic attempt to preserve our living oceans. In exposing this largely unknown story, Joshua Horwitz raises crucial questions about how, as humans, we should regard our relationship to other intelligent, socially complex mammals. He has written a book that is instructive and passionate and deserving a wide audience."

Shortlist

War of the Whales (Simon & Schuster), Joshua Horwitz
How We Got to Now (Riverhead Books), Steven Johnson
The Sixth Extinction (Henry Holt and Co.), Elizabeth Kolbert
The Age of Radiance (Scribner), Craig Nelson
Proof (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Adam Rogers

Longlist

War of the Whales (Simon & Schuster), Joshua Horwitz
How We Got to Now (Riverhead Books), Steven Johnson
The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons (Little, Brown and Company), Sam Kean
The Sixth Extinction (Henry Holt and Co.), Elizabeth Kolbert
Small (Dartmouth College Press), Catherine Musemeche MD
The Age of Radiance (Scribner), Craig Nelson
Proof (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Adam Rogers
The Copernicus Complex (Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Caleb Scharf
Arrival of the Fittest (Current), Andreas Wagner

2015 Judges

Sue Halpern is an award-winning author and long-time contributor to the New York Review of Books. She has published six books, including her most recent work A Dog Walks Into A Nursing Home, and has written extensively on science, technology and social issues for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone and many other publications. Halpern is Scholar-in-Residence at Middlebury College where she directs the Narrative Journalism Fellowship. She holds a doctorate from Oxford University and was a Guggenheim Fellow.

 

Marie Myung-Ok Lee is writing a novel about the future of medicine, forthcoming with Simon & Schuster. She teaches fiction at Columbia and has been a guest speaker at Yale Medical School and Columbia’s Narrative Medicine Program, and a TEDMED Frontine Scholar. She writes for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, The Nation, Slate, The Guardian and has been a judge for the National Book Awards. Photo Credit: Deborah Lopez

 

Carl Zimmer is a columnist at The New York Times, where he writes about science each week. He is the author of a dozen books, including Parasite Rex, Soul Made Flesh, and A Planet of Viruses. He writes regularly for magazines such as National Geographic and The AtlanticPhoto Credit: Ben Stechschulte

 

Past winners

Siddhartha Mukherjee, James Gleick, Leonard Mlodinow, and Carl Hart.

 

Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.

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